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Monday, 29 June 2015 16:44

The Allure of the 10,000m by Larry Eder

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Galen Rupp leads Ben True in the 10,000m at the USA T&F Champs Galen Rupp leads Ben True in the 10,000m at the USA T&F Champs www.PhotoRun.net
The conditions were warm, and humid. Not the kind of weather one would order when one is racing 25 laps of a 400 meter Beynon track. 
 
Yet, the fans stayed, and they cheered, and they screamed and they worshiped their heroes. 
 
And for sixty minutes, the world was a good place...
 
I love the 10,000 meters. It’s a chess match on the track. Tactics are king, especially in championship events, and the requirements of endurance, speed, and cool ness of head are what I find attractive. 
 
I remember sharing a taxi with Molly Huddle and Ray Flynn right after her 5000 meter AR in Monaco last summer. We chatted about her future and I implored her to hold off on the marathon a bit, because I wanted to see her race 10,000 meters. Her coach, Ray Treacy and her agent, Ray Flynn had been advising her the same for a bit. 
 
Most importantly, Huddle wanted to see what she can do on the track. 
 
The 10,000 meter womens champs was between Molly Huddle, Shalane Flanagan and Emily Infeld. A pack of six was together through nearly 8K, when Huddle took over. 
 
Shalane Flanagan had been relentless early on. 75-76 second laps strung out the field. Then, Shalane, tired of leading, pulled the move Ian Stewart made famous: he stopped in the 5000m in the 1969 European Champs, forcing others to lead and won the race. 
 
For Flanagan, moving back to the 10,000m after several years in the marathon world had to be nerve-wracking, but she was impressive. Infeld, who we had been hearing things about all year, was a great find. Amy Cragg, Alexi Pappas and Emily Sisson also made their bids. 
 
In all honesty, as Cragg and Sisson could attest, since they train with her, Huddle is the doe-eyed assassin. Ms. Huddle is as tough as they come and her finish is swift and damaging. 
 
Huddle's 5K times, and 10K and half marathon road racing suggest that, in excellent conditions, she is capable of 30:30. Here she took off and opened some serious real estate in her final lap, winning in 31:39. Infeld took off, but gained a new respect for marathoner Flanagan, who closed mightily and took second in the U.S. 10,000m champs. 
 
The 10,000 meters is a tough race. I recall being as worn out mentally as well as physically whenever I contested the distance. The ability to stay on pace, stay with a pack, and make one's move near the closing stages of a race are all key. 
 
In the conditions that our elite athletes endured on Thursday night, one has to be pretty darn confident that we’re sending a fantastic team on both men and women's side. 
 
The men's race was different than the women's. Galen Rupp had won six straight titles. He also had endured three weeks of constant media scrutiny of his coach, his training partner and himself. The BBC Panorama show (which I have seen) and the Pro Publica writings (which I have read in their entirety) had to take a toll. 
 
For Galen, the good thing is that he cares little about social media. The bad thing is seeing his coach, Alberto Salazar, take the gauntlet. This is a no-win situation. 
 
After having seen Mo Farah pull out of a major race a day after a press conference in Birmingham, UK, I half-expected to see Rupp do the same. But he not only showed up, he took on all comers and battled with Hassan Mead and Ben True until the very last 600 meters. 
 
Hassan Mead is a University of Minnesota grad who is coached by Steve Plascencia, a man who knows a thing or two about racing over 25 laps. Hassan ran 13:02 with Ben True in 2014 at the Payton Jordan Invite at Stanford. 
 
Ben True is one of those immensely talented athletes who just needed the right support. When his former coach left to work at New Balance, True began working once again with Tim Broe. Broe, one of America's finest steepler/5000 meter runners, gets racing and coached True to a brilliant win over 5000 meters at the adidas GP on June 13. In that victory, True became the first American male to win a Diamond League 5000m race. 
 
The weather was horrific and the pace was slow; the long, long drive home took its toll. 
 
Rupp was leading in the second half, with Ben True, Hassan Mead in tow. And then, it was Rupp and True. 
 
Rupp used a long, long drive over the last 3 laps, with increases in pace over the last 800 meters to break both True and Mead. 
 
True is not fond of the 10,000 meters. But, as his coach Tim Broe so ably pointed out to me, who is really fond of the 10,000 meters?
 
Rupp's long drive took its toll, earning him his seventh straight title in 28:11. True finished second in 28:14, and Mead in 28:16. 
 
Twenty-five laps on a very warm track is not the way most elite runners want to spend an evening. And rough conditions are not what most runners want to waste a year of training on. But that is the nature of our sport, and Beijing will be even worse. 
 
In his post race conference, Rupp stayed on task, noting how difficult it was over the past few weeks and how all he wanted to do was to be able to train and race at this time. 
 
He got his wish, for 28 minutes and eleven seconds. 
 
After the race, the fans applauded and cheered for a race well run. And Rupp went over and hugged his coach, Alberto Salazar, as they have endured, what writer John Parker phrased so well, “the Trials of Miles and Miles of Trials.” 
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